Delayed start decisive in Pakenham loss

Narre Warren's Sam Toner gets the better of Lochlan Menzel in this aerial contest. 417442 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Marcus Uhe

A slow jump out of the blocks cost Pakenham dearly in its Outer East Football Netball Premier Division football clash with Narre Warren on Saturday.

Sound familiar? You’re not mistaken.

A disappointing trend has developed for the Lions in 2024, with three of its most costly losses seeing a major deficit at the first change of ends.

They gave their neighbours Officer a 22-point head start in round three, Olinda Ferny Creek kicked five of the first six in round six, and on Saturday they regrouped after a goalless first term, having conceded five.

And it was their own mistakes that cost them time and again.

A dropped mark from ruck Cooper Reilly in the middle of the ground that resulted in a turnover and goal to Will Howe.

A spoil back into play on the goal line for Sam Toner to double his own tally.

A 25-metre penalty that helped Narre Warren to move the ball the length of the ground without difficulty.

The Lions barely entered their forward 50 in the opening quarter, and didn’t look like disturbing the goal umpire when they did so.

It meant chasing tail for the remainder of the afternoon, a task they could not complete, going down 3.6 24 to 9.10 64.

“In the first term we let them get run off half back, their half-forwards pushed up high and got around the ball, but we didn’t counter that,” Carbis said.

“They’re a smart footy team and have been doing it for years.

“Our blokes took too long and before you know it, there are a few goals on the scoreboard.

“I think we were three goals down at one stage in the first quarter and thought ‘that’s not too bad,’ but then there were a couple of late ones and that costs you.”

While the remainder of the game was an even fight, an even fight was not sufficient in reeling in the lead.

They stuck diligently to their approach and intended game style of maintaining possession and switching the ball to the opposite wing, denying the Magpies possession and the chance to whisk the ball away with devastating effect.

The problem was that the Magpies were as aware of it as they were, and shifted their defence accordingly to counter the approach.

It forced the Lions to take risks in the corridor, with their skills not up to the task.

Howe kicked his second late in the term following a Jacob Mutimer intercept at half back, as the Magpies swung into counter attacking mode at the drop of a hat.

Jai Rout finally put Pakenham on the board in the shadows of half time, and for all of the Magpies’ ascendency, it was only a five-goal lead at the break.

It was reward for a stoic effort from the Lions, and gave them a chance at mounting a comeback in the second half.

It could be argued that the game was on Pakenham’s terms, yet it was the Magpies in control.

The first goal of the half loomed large, and the Magpies struck first through Toner.

Hamish West in space makes for a dangerous combination, as his run down the wing and link with Jesse Davies resulted in the ball in the hands of the young star.

James Harrison answered back, following his kick from the prevailing centre clearance and earning a free kick for a high tackle, but Davies kicked another late in the quarter thanks to some slick work from Kurt Murtimer.

West and Mutimer could hit the critical inside 50 kicks where Pakenham couldn’t, en route to easy scoring chances for their teammates and a 38-point three-quarter-time lead.

Pakenham strung together its best piece of play for the afternoon early in the final term, finally transitioning the ball the length of the ground after kick out in Narre Warren-esque fashion.

Sam Kors was the beneficiary, capitalising on a rare scoring chance given the ball lived in their back half for much of the quarter.

It only resulted in one goal – a second to Davies – as Jordan Stewart, Lochlan Menzel and Jaiden Camenzuli repelled entry after entry.

A family feud between the Stewarts and the Toners ignited deep in the final term, but that was the only semblance of spark on a chilly winter afternoon.

Carbis took positives from the ability to restrict Narre Warren after the first break, and credited his midfielders in making necessary adjustments.

But after seven losses in a row, it’s too late to be plucking positives, and not pocketing points.

“As a coach, we’ve got to look at, they could have won by 10 goals and then you’re really in the doldrums, so what you’ve got to take out of it is ‘we were in the game for three quarters against them’ so we’ve got take that positive.

“You’ve got to keep the boys up and look for the little wins, and I think they’ve seen that, so now we’ve got to start beating the teams around us.”

Resisting the temptation to make drastic changes, Carbis says he can see the wheel turning, and asked his players to maintain faith.

Validation isn’t coming in the form of victories, but being tough to play against is a start.

“We’re trying to play a certain way and I keep telling them that they need to stick to it, because sometimes we have it and Woori Yallock get hold of us.

“In the last quarter against Upwey Tecoma, we didn’t, and they beat us.

“That’s the challenge, and they’re starting to believe in it through vision.

“We’re getting there, and what are we going to do? Shut up shop and play a boring brand of footy, or go out there, try to win and play a good brand of footy we’ll enjoy? It’s a pretty easy one to answer.

“The thing that would normally happen especially against Narre Warren is that you would throw the towel in and they’d win by 12 goals.

“For us, not to happen today, that’s a sign of resilience and this team is starting to build that.”

Harrison’s return from a sprained ankle was a success, as was Stewart’s move behind the ball, who played one of his better games for the season.

Menzel and Rhys Clacy, meanwhile, held their own in head-to-head match ups with Sam Toner and Kurt Mutimer, respectively.

For the Magpies, it was a return to winning ways, but bigger fish await for the black and white fryer.

A fortnight at home against Emerald and Officer is next on the schedule before the Split Round break, ahead of a mouth-watering clash with Wandin that could determine top two seeding.

West, Joel Zietsman and Corey Bader were among the Magpies’ bests.